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2013.08.25 玛格丽特-阿特伍德

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Margaret Atwood
A Canadian novelist with a “prodigious output”

Aug 25th 2013



By Peter Kemp

"Books and solitude" often feature in writers’ childhoods, Margaret Atwood has noted. They certainly did in her own, which began in Ottawa in 1939. For half the year, her father, an entomologist studying leaf-eating insects, took the family to his research station in the backwoods of Quebec. In this isolated cabin, Atwood, who didn’t go to school full-time until she was 11, became "an omnivorous reader".

Her literary output, now extending over 50 years, has been similarly prodigious: poetry, short stories, non-fiction on subjects ranging from Canadian literature to economics, tales for children, and—most outstanding—novels whose settings include early-19th-century Canada, Toronto in different periods of the 20th century, and North America in the near future, as envisaged in her totalitarian dystopia "The Handmaid’s Tale", and the eco-horror trilogy that began in 2003 with "Oryx and Crake" and ends this year with "MaddAddam".

KEY DECISION To persist in becoming a writer. In 1960 just five new novels by Canadian writers were published in Canada; in bookshops they were found on shelves marked "Canadiana", alongside works such as "101 Things to Do with Maple Sugar". Atwood’s first signing—for "The Edible Woman" (1969)—took place in the Men’s Socks and Underwear department of a store in Edmonton. In those days, the term "Canadian writer" was jokily regarded as an oxymoron. Atwood heads a group—Robertson Davies, Alice Munro, Carol Shields—who turned it into an accolade.

STRONG POINTS Bringing things excitingly together. Her imagination responds as keenly to scientific concerns as it does to the literary heritage she is steeped in. Packed with vivid detail, her fiction has panoramic reach. She explores inner worlds and changing social scenes. She mixes intellectual sizzle, sensuous immediacy and sardonic wit (on a fast-food ad: "smiling chickens offering platters of their own fried body parts") with rich description (lipstick in shades of "melting orange sherbet…faded pink satin", plants with "rubbery ear-shaped leaves and fruit like warts, like glands") and verbal acuity ("Eminent, the mausoleum word").

GOLDEN RULE Revise a lot. Cut a lot. Weed out the unnecessary and the obvious. The waste-paper basket, she believes, is "the tenth Muse".

ROLE MODELS Colourfully assorted. George Orwell alerted her to the way euphemisms can cloak oppression (as "The Handmaid’s Tale" sinisterly displays). Gothic fiction kindled her flair for casting an eerie sheen over the everyday. The furniture in a Victorian parlour is done out in "the colours of the inside of the body—the maroon of kidneys, the reddish purple of hearts, the opaque blue of veins, the ivory of teeth and bones".

FAVOURITE TRICK (1) Giving a new spin to one of the less reputable literary genres: the bodice-ripper in "Lady Oracle", the beach-read thriller in "Bodily Harm", the penny-dreadful murder ballad in "Alias Grace", 1930s dime magazine sci-fi in "The Blind Assassin", the Gothic vampire tale in "The Robber Bride". (2) Counterpointing female characters. Three very different women are brought together when their lives and loves are ravaged by Zenia, the robber bride.

TYPICAL SENTENCE "The sun moves into Scorpio, Tony has lunch at the Toxique with her two friends Roz and Charis, a slight breeze blows in over Lake Ontario, and Zenia returns from the dead" ("The Robber Bride", page two).

MaddAddam Bloomsbury, August 29th

illustration kathryn rathke

一位拥有 "惊人产量 "的加拿大小说家



玛格丽特-阿特伍德指出,"书籍和孤独 "往往是作家们童年的特征。她自己的童年当然也是如此,她的童年始于1939年的渥太华。她的父亲是一位研究食叶昆虫的昆虫学家,有半年的时间,他把全家带到他在魁北克省后方的研究站。在这个与世隔绝的小屋里,直到11岁才全职上学的阿特伍德成了 "一个杂食的读者"。


关键决定 坚持成为一名作家。1960年,只有五部加拿大作家的新小说在加拿大出版;在书店里,它们被放在标有 "Canadiana "的书架上,与 "101 Things to Do with Maple Sugar "等作品一起。阿特伍德的第一次签售是在埃德蒙顿一家商店的男士袜子和内衣部进行的,签的是《可食用的女人》(1969)。在那些日子里,"加拿大作家 "这个词被开玩笑地认为是一个矛盾词。阿特伍德领导着一个团体--罗伯逊-戴维斯、爱丽丝-门罗、卡罗尔-希尔兹--他们把它变成了一种荣誉。

强项:将事物激动地结合在一起。她的想象力对科学问题的反应和对她所浸淫的文学遗产的反应一样敏锐。她的小说充满了生动的细节,具有全景式的视野。她探索了内心世界和不断变化的社会场景。她将知识分子的热情、感性的直接性和讽刺的机智(在一个快餐广告上。在快餐广告上:"微笑的鸡提供自己油炸的身体部位的盘子"),同时又有丰富的描述(口红的色调是 "融化的橘色雪碧......褪色的粉色缎子",植物有 "橡皮耳形的叶子和像疣子、像腺体的果实")和语言的敏锐性("杰出,陵墓这个词")。

黄金法则 大量修改。大量删减。剔除不必要的和明显的内容。她认为,废纸篓是 "第十个缪斯"。

角色模型 丰富多彩。乔治-奥威尔提醒她,委婉语可以掩盖压迫的方式(正如《女仆的故事》所显示的那样,很阴险)。哥特式小说点燃了她为日常事物披上阴森光泽的天赋。维多利亚时代的客厅里的家具是用 "身体内部的颜色--肾脏的栗色,心脏的红紫色,血管的不透明的蓝色,牙齿和骨头的象牙色"。

最喜欢的伎俩 (1) 对不太知名的文学流派之一进行新的改造:《神谕女士》中的剥皮者,《身体的伤害》中的海滩读物惊悚片,《别名格蕾丝》中的一分钱可怕的谋杀民谣,《盲目刺客》中1930年代的硬币杂志科幻片,《强盗新娘》中哥特式的吸血鬼故事。(2) 对应的女性角色。三个截然不同的女人被强盗新娘泽尼亚蹂躏后,她们的生活和爱情被带到了一起。

典型句子 "太阳进入天蝎座,托尼与她的两个朋友罗兹和查里斯在Toxique共进午餐,安大略湖上吹来一阵微风,泽尼亚死而复生" (《强盗新娘》,第二页)。

MaddAddam Bloomsbury,8月29日

插图 Kathryn Rathke
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